“I need some advice,” she started with trepidation in her voice. As my friend paused, my mind went through a quick list of what the topic might possibly be. The tone of her voice, the hesitancy to go on led me to believe that this was very serious, possibly life-changing. She finally continued, “I went to my daughter’s conference today and they want to test her for special ed.”
Now I understood. With my background in special education and having a daughter with special needs myself, this mom was asking for guidance. She wondered if she should approve that testing be done. The professional educator in me came to the forefront. Slowly, carefully, I explained the process in very plain language. Pointing out the information that testing would provide, I let her know more than once that she had choices in the process. As the parent, she is in control of the situation (schools don’t often let parents know that.) And above all, the process is about providing the best education for her daughter that she can get.
My friend was full of questions and worry, I could still hear it in her voice. She quietly asked, “Is it my fault that she is having trouble reading? Should I have done something differently?” (So many feelings are elicited from the words of special education; I wish special education did not have such a negative stigma attached to it.) It was time to change hats, to take off the “teacher” hat and put on the “mom” hat. Knowing that this mom reads with her child every day, and has for years; that she makes sure her daughter gets to school on time every day; that she oversees her homework; that she is a loving mom…my friend needed reassurance that she is a good mom. She has not failed her child.
Our talk was long and I hope it helped. I hope her daughter learns to read with joy. I hope my friend views helping her daughter get the support she needs as a positive thing, not as being a failure as a mom. This was possibly a life-changing conversation for both mom and daughter.